Ted Lasso Season 3 was great and satisfying. All the stories were tidily wrapped up. The dialog was often amazing. Ted’s monologues were inspiration exemplified. The football was better. The writers explored new themes and got knee-deep in immigrant and LGBT issues. But Season 3 of Ted Lasso was a little different for me than the first 2 seasons, because I never got around to writing my review.
I think I just didn’t want to say goodbye to a story and cast that brought me comfort during the pandemic. That seriously increased soccer’s relevancy in the USA. That was quoted from the pulpit of my local church. That helped make Americans (actors, anyway) welcome in English football.
But, it had been 5-6 months since I had watched Season 3, so I decided to rewatch all its episodes. And with the situations in Gaza, the Ukraine, and climate change, frankly I’ve been a little depressed. I needed a Ted Lasso binge to cheer me up. In fact, after rewatching Season 3, I was still depressed, so I rewatched Seasons 1 and 2. 😀
In rewatching all the seasons, and by going a little backwards, I realized what a masterpiece is Ted Lasso. The dialog, the aphorisms, the deep statements, the clarity coming from a guy who tries to disarm adversaries by being a total clown. How the creators had mapped their storylines from the beginning, giving hints in Season 1 as to what would happen in Season 3. It was mind-blowing to realize how carefully crafted it all was, like a treasure map, or like playing a Beatles song backwards. The stories and the tightness were as perfect as the first Back to the Future. Nothing fell through the cracks, well maybe except for the Nate Shelley storyline.
Season 3 Storylines – New characters
Ted Lasso has a pretty large ensemble cast, and this season they added 3 new characters who had significant weight (if not speaking lines) in a few episodes each. Sometimes series today have too many characters and storylines for me to follow, but all of these brought new dimensions to the existing characters.
- Zava (Maximilian Osinski) is a very funny Zlatan doppelgänger, who I often forgot was not Zlatan. Club owner Rebecca manages to yell-scream Zava into signing with AFC Richmond instead of Chelsea or her ex-husband’s team West Ham. Zava favors a 9-1 formation and puts the team on a short-term winning streak.
- Jack Danvers (Jodi Balfour) is the fabulously wealthy female owner of a VC firm that funds the startup of KJPR, the public relations firm of Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Jack has a striking resemblance to Natalie Portman, and she love bombs Keeley into an open office lesbian relationship.
- Shandy (Ambreen Razia) is Keeley’s old bawdy girlfriend and roommate, whom Keeley hires but later has to fire. Shandy’s outgoing speech deserves an Emmy, and I’m sure she will someday star in a Footballers Wives remake.
- Another new character is Ted’s mom, Deborah “Dottie” Lasso. See below…
Season 3 Storylines – old characters (Spoiler Alert)
In Seasons 1 and 2, we saw a lot of Ted and Coach Beard in half-hour episodes that eventually stretched to about 45 minutes. Season 3 episodes were over 50 minutes long, and the creators used the extra time to layer in more details about minor characters. You can’t help but feel you come to know them all like family.
- Despite her incredible posh looks, great singing voice, and confidence, owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has such a sorry love life. Psychic Tish (Emma Davies) ties together the threads of Rebecca’s past and future romances, but Rebecca can only focus on defeating her ex-husband Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head), who now owns West Ham, and who denied her desire to become a mother. By the end of the show, though, Rebecca realizes that Richmond AFC, its fans, and staff are a family, and she has become the symbolic mother and caretaker. There is a hint of this in episode 10, when she gives a speech against the Akufo super league. She tells the other Premier League owners that “Just because we own these teams doesn’t mean they belong to us.”
- Keeley and Rebecca lean on each other for support and girl talk. Keeley bumbles her way through business and relationships.
- Journalist Trent (James Lance) embeds himself with Richmond in order to write a book about the Lasso Way. Episode 4 is dedicated to Grant Wahl, America’s greatest soccer journalist, who similarly wrote about MLS in “The Beckham Experiment“. In this season, Trent becomes more like Grant. When Trent realizes what the team is really about, he retitles his book “The Richmond Way”. Probably coming soon to a bookstore near you.
- Episode 3 starts by showing that Welsh footballer Colin Hughes (Billy Harris) is in the closet. Over the season, we get a feeling for how hard it is to live 2 separate lives, fueled by secrets and lies. One of the best coaching talks of the series is in episode 9, when Ted explains why everyone should not “not care” if someone is different. Ted uses a Denver Broncos metaphor to explain why people should be there for that person and celebrate their difference.
“I shoulda cared. I should’ve supported him [the Denver Broncos fan]. The point is Colin, we don’t all not care. From now on, you don’t have to go through it all by yourself.”Ted Lasso in episode 9Ted Lasso in episode 9
- Nigerian midfielder Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) gets into a twitter argument with the Prime Minister about the migrant crisis. It leads to the trashing of his popular restaurant.
- Ted’s mother Dottie (Becky Ann Baker) unexpectedly arrives for a visit. Ted brings her to Richmond, where she charms the players and staff, but he is uncomfortable. The creators like to use parents as a window into a person. But in this case, it’s Ted who looks through the window and sees how the relentless positivity he and his mother present, kept them from dealing with the loss of his father to suicide at age 16. In a separate moment, pub owner Mae Green (Annette Badland) quotes Ted the verse of Philip Larkin, which ends with:
Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself.from “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin
The arc of Coach Ted Lasso
Ted finally goes home. It took awhile to learn that Ted had taken the coaching job in England to get away from a failing marriage. In Season 1, when Higgins brings in sports psychologist Dr Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), Ted says he doesn’t trust therapists. At first, you get the impression that his distrust is more of a competitive issue, since Ted administers to his players much like a therapist. He requires a relationship of equals with the Doc before he can ask her to help him with his panic attacks.
But in Season 3, he and the viewers find out where Ted’s disdain for therapy may have come from. His former marriage counselor is now dating and on the verge of proposing to his ex-wife Michelle (Andrea Anders). We are left to guess if Ted and Michelle will get back together or just be good co-parents to son Henry (Gus Turner).
The arcs of Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt
Over 3 seasons, Roy Kent goes from his initial angry man and old school footballer to pundit to coach. By the end, he is a hairy guy who is sensitive, caring, sharing, and a Ted Lasso apostle. Over 3 seasons, Jamie Tartt goes from vain and narcissistic jerk on the field and in the locker room, to solid teammate and sensitive, caring, sharing, self-deprecating nice boy. Jamie and Roy even become best friends. I have to admit, of all the characters, I liked these 2 the best. Strangely, I found them to be the most believable, or at least, the closest to believable. I was disappointed that Mattel did not make Barbie doll versions of Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt (see below). I suppose the name Tartt and the beard were problems 🙂.
The arc of Nate the Great
The hardest arc for me to understand or perhaps to accept, was that of Nate Shelley (Nick Mohammed). Nate goes from kitman to Nate the Great to Wonder Kid to West Ham manager to waiter to assistant kitman. Supposedly he finds the man inside of him, a man who has all the adulation and money he could ever want, but doesn’t want it.
Until I re-watched Season 2, I had forgotten the ugly level to which Nate’s behavior deteriorated as his career ascended. While he starts as Umble Uriah, after he is promoted into coaching, he virtually pisses on the new kitman and footballer Collin, insults a referee, spits on mirrors to build up his courage, and assaults Keeley. At the end of Season 2, out of the blue, he gives Ted a FU speech goodbye, saying that Ted didn’t give Nate enough attention. In Season 3, we see Nate’s relationship with a cold, distant father. But the dad is really too mild to be a catalyst for Nate’s venomous behavior.
So I had trouble buying Nate’s arc, just as I would if Jose Mourinho suddenly decided to work at McDonalds. Even Nate’s hair color turns from black to all gray in a few months, maybe as a symbol of his stark personality change. His final return to Richmond only makes sense as a way to show how much the other characters have evolved, in that they are all able to forgive him. For example, Coach Beard tells Nate he is giving him a second chance, just as Ted had done for Beard, Les Miserables style. But I just couldn’t buy it and it made Nate’s character too dissonant.
The importance of parenting
Ted Lasso was always about kindness, an effort to offset the horrible negativity that the Trump administration instilled in American culture, and from which we may never recover. But in watching backwards through the seasons, I picked up on how much the series is about parenting. Even coaching is about developing (parenting) players to be the best people they can be, on and off the pitch. And other than Nate, the bad guys don’t have parents. So yeah, don’t just be a goldfish. Be a parent.
There’s so much more I could write about — Mae and the fans at the Crown & Anchor, Sassy Smurf, Coach Beard’s weirdness, Isaac’s hair cutting and captaincy, the Believe sign, the many cultural references to music and old movies. So many great performances and touches, but if I wrote about all of it, it would be like transcribing the scripts. Don’t just read my review; watch this great series for yourself.
It’s pretty amazing how Ted Lasso has become a cottage industry. Last month, Mattel came out with Barbie doll editions of Ted, Rebecca, and Keeley, which I snapped up. Warner Brothers has a Ted Lasso shop where I bought a Richmond AFC jersey. I bought the Ted Lasso board game. There is unlicensed Ted Lasso stuff all over Etsy, and if you search Good Reads, you will find > 400 books and calendars, cards, etc reselling the great phrases by the series writers.
The creators are still mum about what comes next for Ted Lasso, but I would assume that there’s gotta be a musical film in the works. Or maybe, Ted Lasso in Saudi Arabia. Or Tedu Raso in Japan. Or Ted Lasso Goes to Washington and takes over Congress, instilling team spirit and kindness. We can only hope for more to come, and that Ted Lasso saves the world.
Update on Jan-25-2024
I am a little heartbroken that Ted Lasso did not repeat its Emmy award winning record in Season 3, especially when I thought this was the best of the 3 seasons. I think Hollywood voters do not like to award commercial success or stories where women become real role models, as evidenced by Barbie‘s not being nominated for Best Director or Actress Oscar categories. 😢😢
10 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 10